There are claims that drinking alcohol can help protect people from SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This is not true.
According to the European World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol does not protect against infection or illness relating to COVID-19. In fact, it is possible that alcohol consumption may increase the chance of developing severe illness as a result of COVID-19.
This article will discuss the myths and facts about alcohol use and COVID-19. It will also explain how alcohol consumption affects mental health and discuss some ways to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
There are a variety of myths regarding alcohol consumption and SARS-CoV-2.
The following sections will outline these in more detail and provide the facts.
Myth 1: Consuming alcohol can destroy the virus
Fact: Consuming alcohol does not destroy SARS-CoV-2.
It is possible for high concentrations of alcohol, such as 60–90%, to kill some forms of bacteria and viruses. However, alcohol kills viruses on the skin.
Drinking alcohol does not reduce the chance of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 or developing severe illness from COVID-19.
Myth 2: Consuming alcohol stimulates the immune system
Fact: Alcohol can have a detrimental effect on the immune system.
According to the European WHO, alcohol plays no role in supporting the immune system to fight a viral infection. This is true for any concentration of alcohol.
It is possible that excessive alcohol use may even harm the immune system.
Myth 3: Alcohol on the breath kills the virus in the air
Fact: Alcohol does not disinfect the mouth or provide protection.
Alcohol on the breath does not provide protection from the virus in the air. Drinking alcohol will not lower the risk of infection.
Alcohol can have a negative effect on the immune system.
According to a 2015 article in the journal Alcohol Research, alcohol can prevent immune cells from working properly. This reduces the ability of the immune system to fight off infections. It can also cause inflammation to occur, further weakening the immune system.
People who develop a severe illness from COVID-19 are at risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This occurs when fluid fills up air sacs in the lungs, affecting oxygen supply to the body. The consequences of this can be life threatening.
According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, out of 201 people with COVID-19-induced pneumonia, 41.8% developed ARDS.
Alcohol also increases the chance of developing ARDS.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people may experience higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. This may cause some people to consume more alcohol than they usually would.
In order to function as usual, the brain needs to maintain the balance of neurotransmitters. Alcohol can disrupt this balance.
Excessive alcohol use can lead to or worsen existing mental health problems.
For example, according to a 2015 review, alcohol can induce depression.
Other methods of coping
Although some people turn to alcohol, there are many other ways of coping with feelings of depression and anxiety.
Some people may find psychotherapy beneficial. Psychotherapies use different methods to help a person understand and change their patterns of thinking and behavior.
There are also a variety of medications available for depression and anxiety. For example, antidepressants can treat the symptoms of depression in some people. These usually take 2–4 weeks to begin working.
Making other lifestyle changes might also help. For example, getting regular exercise and practicing stress reduction techniques can help reduce symptoms. It is also important to prevent feelings of isolation by reaching out to friends and family when possible.
Mixing alcohol with some medications can cause or worsen some symptoms, including:
- dizziness and lightheadedness
- loss of coordination
These symptoms can occur when mixing alcohol with many common over-the-counter pain relievers, as well as certain cold and allergy medications.
Always check the label on medications for possible interactions with alcohol.
In more serious cases, mixing alcohol with medications can cause internal bleeding and organ problems. For example, alcohol can mix with ibuprofen or acetaminophen to cause stomach problems and liver damage.
Alcohol does not provide any protection from SARS-CoV-2. It does not reduce the risk of infection or the development of severe illness related to COVID-19.
In fact, it is possible that excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing COVID-19-induced illness, as this can affect the immune system.
Alcohol use might also cause or worsen certain mental health conditions during the pandemic.
It can also interact with several common medications, such as ibuprofen, to cause further symptoms.